A child and a therapist interact during a session at the Ascension Alexian Brothers Autism Spectrum and Developmental Disorders Resource Center in Hoffman Estates, Illinois.
Every day without treatment can be a chaotic struggle for families impacted by autism and other neurodevelopmental disabilities. This struggle can come with a costly price tag, from the loss of household income due to missed work to the loss of opportunities for their child to grow and meaningfully engage with the world.
“I could tell he was different, and as a parent, my biggest concern is my child’s well-being,” said a grateful parent of a child who found help at the Ascension Alexian Brothers Autism Spectrum and Developmental Disorders Resource Center. “Will he be developmentally delayed for the rest of his life? How will this impact him socially? Will people pick on him for being different? These are just a few questions I had running through my head on a daily basis.”
The Ascension Alexian Brothers Autism Spectrum and Developmental Disorders Resource Center opened in 2010 thanks to the vision of a philanthropist who understood the need to expand care for this underserved population. Since it opened, more than 10,000 families have received help — and it’s all been made possible because of the generosity of the community.
A regional leader in autism support
Based in Hoffman Estates, the autism resource center serves families from across the greater Chicago area and even from as far as Wisconsin and Indiana who are impacted by autism as well as by disorders such as ADHD, intellectual disabilities, social communication disorders and other neurodevelopmental concerns. It provides equitable access to care to all individuals in need, regardless of their ability to pay, and focuses on supporting individuals with co-occurring mental health concerns.
As part of its Catholic mission, the autism resource center is one of the region’s leaders in caring for underinsured patients and for patients with severe autism, providing more than 3,400 patients, caregivers and professionals annually with:
Resource navigation services
Individual and group therapeutic services
Caregiver skills training
“From the first day I attended this site, they treated me excellently because they explained everything clearly, from how to fill out the paperwork to all about the visits my children were going to have there,” said one grateful parent. “Without the help of the therapists, it would have been difficult for me to face this process.”
Filling a huge gap in care
According to the National Autism Indicators Report, 53% of children with an autism diagnosis live in lower-income households where parents earn less than 200% of the federal poverty level.
By serving all in need, including those who are uninsured or underinsured, the autism resource center fills a huge gap in care. More than half of families served by the center have been on Medicaid, and an additional 2% are typically unfunded. All treatment and diagnostic services are provided free of charge to Medicaid and unfunded patients. Support groups, recreational groups, and caregiver education sessions are offered free of charge to all people with Medicaid.
A growing need
Early interventions for a child with autism can significantly improve their level of functioning and independence later in life. But children must first have a medical diagnosis to access interventions, and it is difficult to access timely diagnostic evaluations. Typically, families on Medicaid wait an average of six months to more than a year to access diagnostic testing, psychiatry and therapeutic services. Not every child or family can afford to wait that long for help.
“Many people do not realize the expense and time it takes to get a child diagnosed with autism and also how expensive the recommended therapies may be,” one parent said. “I’m forever thankful that Ascension Illinois not only evaluated my son but also provided recommendations and resources to help him acclimate to the world. This was something my family could simply not afford at the time and I cannot tell you how much I appreciate the grants that are offered.”
The autism resource center has an innovative triage-to-care and non-diagnostic screening process to directly address families’ needs, speeding up diagnoses and treatment for underserved children. To continue to fill this important gap and meet these families’ needs, the center depends on the generosity of the community.